Looe Music Festival

The charity will use £165,000 to manage liabilities and produce its 2018 festival edition.

Image Credit: Looe Music Festival 2017. Photo by: Will Fahy.

Looe Music Festival

Region South West
Art form Music
Investment size £165,000

From its inception, the Arts Impact Fund’s partners hoped that social investment could be a valuable tool not only for organisations experiencing periods of revenue growth and a strong financial position, but also for organisations experiencing cashflow management challenges, provided they can demonstrate sound management and a clear turnaround strategy. Our recent investment in Looe Music Festival hopes to illustrate this by giving an ambitious charity with strong community support a better way of managing its cashflow in the short to medium term, while it works to reach financial stability.

Established in 2010, Looe Music Festival is a charity running a music festival under the same name in the town of Looe in East Cornwall. In addition, it organises a number of smaller projects throughout the year and alongside the festival weekend that aim to engage local people with the arts and Cornish heritage. Whilst Cornwall is often associated with idyllic countryside and holiday homes, the reality for local people is one of economic hardship, loss of community and cultural disengagement, deprivation in the county having risen dramatically between 2010 and 2015. Held in late September each year, Looe Music Festival is a major event in the county’s cultural calendar – it extends the tourism season and puts East Cornwall, generally overlooked in favour of more popular ‘hotspots’ like St. Ives, Penzance or Truro, in the spotlight. The festival’s achievements have been recognised through a number of awards, including ‘Tourism Event of the Year’, 2016 & 2017 (Cornwall Tourism Awards), ‘Best Festival & Event’, 2016 (What’s On Cornwall) and ‘Best Arts, Culture & Heritage Charity – Runner Up’, 2014 (National Charity Awards).

Despite the festival growing in size year on year between 2011 and 2016, the charity has been loss-making in recent years and eventually ran into hardship, leading it to look for a way to turn its fortunes around. Bringing in financial expertise at Board level, Looe Music Festival was able to better manage its expenditure and put in place several measures to address business risks. Still, the organisation was in a precarious situation as it needed cash both to pay off 2017 creditors and invest in development for 2018 edition of the festival, which is central to its transformation strategy. Looe Music Festival turned to the Arts Impact Fund for a loan of £165,000 to help with this.

Looe Music Festival is highly attuned to the needs of the local people and has a strong place-making agenda. Its impact on the area is significant, contributing to social, economic and cultural regeneration.

This was a high-risk investment proposal for the Arts Impact Fund and we were diligent in understanding the factors affecting Looe Music Festival’s likelihood of making a profit, from the line-up and cost of tickets to the tide’s impact on the dates of the beachside event. Due to the seasonal nature of the festival, not everything can be predicted, as many visitors decide to book immediately prior to the event taking place. However, we were encouraged by the fact that, for the most part, visitor numbers and revenue generated from ticket sales have been growing steadily since the launch of the festival, gradually narrowing the difference between income and expenditure and giving a good indication that the charity’s short to medium-term financial projections are achievable. We also discussed in-depth the different income streams for Looe Music Festival and to what extent those can be grown independently of ticket sales revenue. Equally, it was important that we are comfortable with management being committed and ready to see through what is undoubtedly going to be a crucial period for the organisation.

Thanks to its genesis as a community-led initiative, Looe Music Festival is highly attuned to the needs of the local people and has a strong place-making agenda. Its impact on the area is significant, contributing to social, economic and cultural regeneration. The charity estimates that the festival has had an economic impact of £18m between 2012-2016, with many local businesses benefitting from the influx of visitors. This has knock-on positive effects for wider community too, encouraging a sense of confidence, stability and improved wellbeing in an area marked by deprivation and deteriorating mental health. As part of our social impact development plan, the charity will work with the Arts Impact Fund team to measure and articulate this improvement in a more robust way as well as focus on how impact management processes can be improved.

Through its ancillary projects, Looe Music Festival also encourages community engagement and supports keeping Cornish culture alive and embedded in the life of the community. The charity has facilitated investment into local heritage assets and engages local residents as volunteers or participants in many of its events, such as The Big Cornish Sing in 2017, which invited people to take part in a public performance of Cornish music as well as record and share musical content in Cornish on social media. Looe Music Festival’s long-term vision is to grow the number of one-off cultural projects it organises, making them a more regular fixture of the organisation’s activity and therefore creating greater value for the community.

We will continue to monitor how preparations for the 2018 Looe Music Festival evolve. During the term of our investment, we hope to see the charity become profitable once again and begin to accumulate financial reserves, making it less susceptible to turmoil and more resilient in the long-term, allowing it to generate and compound its positive impact across the region.